It is always important to include stretching as part of your total fitness plan. Regular stretching not only helps to prevent muscle stiffness and soreness after a workout, but it also offers many other impressive benefits —including releasing tension and relieving stress, increasing flexibility and improving blood circulation. For the abdominal muscles, there are certain ab stretches, in particular, you should try.
Know Your Muscles
The abdominal muscle group consists of multiple muscles. The rectus abdominis muscle sits at front and is a long, flat muscle that spans from the underside of the ribs to just above the pelvis. The muscles at the sides are known as the external and internal oblique muscles, while the transversus abdominis muscle, the deepest abdominal muscle layer, wraps around the sides at the bottom of the abdomen.
Make Each Stretch Count
Even if you're doing all the right stretches, you won't reap the benefits of stretching if you're not doing it right. Always maintain proper form during your stretches, and don't forget to hold each long enough. About 30 seconds is recommended, stretching to the point of mild discomfort but never pain. Not stretching for long enough means you're not giving it long enough to get results, but if you stretch too long you could cause injury to your muscles and joints.
1. Be the Cobra
Also commonly referred to as the cobra pose, especially in the practice of yoga, the lying abdominal stretch is one of the most effective moves for stretching the abdominal muscles.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your stomach on the floor, palms flat at chest level, legs extended straight behind you with your toes pointed away from your body. Push up off your hands, raising your torso as high as you can without lifting your pelvis off the floor. Hold for several breaths, then lower yourself back down.
2. Standing Stomach Stretches
To stretch the abdominal muscles, try the standing stomach stretches.
HOW TO DO IT: Stand straight, feet about shoulder-width apart, your arms extended above your head. Slowly arch your back, moving your arms back at the same time so your fingers pointing away from you behind your head. Stretch as far back as possible, until you feel a stretch in your rectus abdominis muscles at the front of your abdomen. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then release.
3. Add a Twist
The rotating stomach stretch is one of the most effective ab stretches, targeting all of the abdominal muscles.
HOW TO DO IT: Start in the cobra pose, face-down on the floor with your legs behind you and hands positioned beside your chest. Extend your arms to make them straight, raising your torso off the floor at the same time. Bend your right arm and twist your body toward the right, hold, then repeat on the other side.
4. Lie Down and Stretch
HOW TO DO IT: Straighten your legs with your arms extended straight above your head so your hands are aligned with your shoulders. Keeping the rest of your body flat against the floor, raise your arms away from your body, raising your chest off the floor at the same time. Continue until your arms are extended flat on the floor, fingers pointing away from your body.